Thursday Night Movie Club
Raiders of the Lost Ark
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Release Date: 12 June 1981

Director: Steven Spielberg
Harrison Ford
Karen Allen
Paul Freeman
Ronald Lacey
John Rhys-Davies
Denholm Elliott
Alfred Molina
Wolf Kahler
Anthony Higgins
Vic Tablian
Don Fellows
William Hootkins
Bill Reimbold
Fred Sorenson
Patrick Durkin
Indiana Jones
Marion Ravenwood
Dr. René Belloq
Major Arnold Toht
Dr. Marcus Brody
Colonel Dietrich
Barranca / Monkey Man
Col. Musgrove
Major Eaton
Australian Climber
Raiders of the Lost Ark poster Raiders of the Lost Ark poster Raiders of the Lost Ark poster
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost ArkRaiders of the Lost Ark is a lot like riding a roller coaster. The opening sequence climbs slowly to the top, the roller coaster drops down, gaining speed as it twists, turns, spins upside down and finally ends safely in the station. The film is pure fun and excitement from start to finish. There isn't a single boring frame in it.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is a part-time university professor of archeology. When he isn't teaching, Indy travels the globe in search of relics from lost civilizations. He sells his finds/treasures to the university museum, for a tidy fee.

In 1936, Indy finds himself in the South American jungle following a map that will lead him to a solid gold icon. Hidden behind vines is a massive cave. Indy ventures inside with his assistant Satipo (Alfred Molina). Before Satipo can venture further, Indy stops him warning to stay out of the light. The shrine is protected. Indy avoids the traps and replaces the relic with a bag full of sand. Mission accomplished!

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost ArkAs Indy prepares to leave, the sandbag sinks into the pedestal. Poison darts fly from every corner, Satipo takes the icon from Indy and leaves him stranded behind a slowly closing door. Indy barely escapes the trap and finds Satipo has fallen to a different trap. Indy retrieves the icon only to discover a large boulder racing towards him. Indy, covered in spider webs, escapes the final trap only to fall into the hands of his nemeis Dr. René Belloq, a French archeologist whom Indy likens to a grave robber. Indy picks his moment and escapes. Belloq, who speaks the local dialect sends the natives and their poison darts after Indy. Indy swings like Tarzan onto the waiting float plane piloted by his friend Jock (Fred Sorenson). Indy is terrified to find a large boa constrictor in the plane with him. Jock jokingly tells Indy, "C'mon Jones, show a little backbone." This is only the first five minutes of the film.

The plot thickens after Indiana Jones returns to teaching. Two Army Intelligence Officers wish to speak to Indy regarding the whereabouts of Indy's mentor, Abner Ravenwood. Army Intelligence intercepted and decoded a cryptic message from Nazi Germany. Adolph Hitler, obsessed with the occult, has a large acheological dig proceeding in Egypt. The German team has found an ancient city called Tanis. They need to find Ravenwood and obtain the headpiece to the Staff of Ra.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost ArkThe intelligence officers have no idea what the message means. Indy and his colleague Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) realize the German team has discovered the last known location of the lost Ark of the Covenant, which held the tablets inscribed by God and given to Moses to take into Israel. The Ark is said to possess mysterious powers. It can level mountains. An army that carries the Ark in front of it cannot be defeated. If Hitler finds the Ark, he can conquer the world. The intelligence agents ask Indy to follow the trail and try to find the Ark before the German team. Indy and Brody are ecstatic to be going after an artifact of such immence historical value.

This covers the first ten minutes of the film. The adventure takes Indiana Jones to Nepal where he tracks down Ravenwoods daughter Marion (Karen Allen). Marion has the headpiece in her possession. However, the German SS, lead by Toht (Ronald Lacey) have also tracked Marion. Indy saves Marion after a spectacular gun/fire fight inside the bar Marion operates. Indy isn't happy but Marion signs on as Indy's partner until he can repay the damage.

Based upon an original story by producer George Lucas, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan has written an amazing adventure right out of the old Saturday matinee serials Lucas grew up on. Steven Spielberb surpasses his directorial debut in "Jaws" setting a frantic pace for Indy's adventures. The action scenes are as varied as the locations and each one is more exciting and dangerous for our hero.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost ArkSpielberg's camera setups are as much fun to watch as Indiana Jones. Spielberg uses a tracking camera to follow Indy, on horseback, riding along a water acquifer. A shot may start with a closeup on one character, then slowly pull back to reveal hidden elements or dangers. The slower seqence with Indiana Jones inside the map room developes with suspense. Indy can be captured at any second. Spielberg changes the feel to religous fervor as the sun slowly rises in the map room to reveal the actual hiding spot of the Ark of the Covenant. A triumphant Indy breaks the staff so the Germans can't follow. His friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) throws Indy a lifeline made up of clothes and the Nazi flag. Spielberg changes the tone of the scene from elation, to dread as Indy is momentarily trapped, to pure outragous humor as the Nazi flag hits Indy square in his head.

Harrison Ford in action as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost ArkWith the film set in 1936, Indiana Jones is truly on his own. He has no fancy gadgets. Indy is armed with a gun, a bullwhip, his wits, and his ability to see the chase through no matter how banged up he gets. Harrison Ford is perfectly cast as Indiana Jones. Ford plays Jones as a cross between Han Solo and the "Man With No Name". In one scene, Indy is being verbally tormented by Belloq. Ford stares straight ahead and does his best Clint Eastwood with a simple line, "Now you're gettin' nasty!" Ford is sexy, cool, calm and able to hold his own in a fist fight. Jones uses both his knowledge of archeology and sheer brawn to get out of very tight spot he gets into.

The remainder of the cast is not from the Hollywood A-list. Each actor brings their A-game to their respective roles. Karen Allen is fantastic as Marion Ravenwood. Allen is as sexily cool as Ford. As Marion, she can match Indy quip for quip and probably drink him under the table as well. Marion, being the daughter of an archeologist, is very much a tomboy but she can also be feminine when she needs to be.

Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies are equally great. As Brody, Elliott plays Brody with all the boyhood glee of discovery as Jones. Brody is the cautious one of the pair yet Elliott still conveys the yearning in Brody's eyes wishing he could accompany Jones on his quest. John Rhys-Davies is wonderful as Sallah. From his first moment onscreen, Rhys-Davies and Ford team together as though they have known each other for years. Jones and Sallah have a long relationship and this comes through with their ease together. Sallah may not know much about archeology per se, but he knows a lot about the digging process. Sallah provides Jones with much of the practical knowledge on the German's digging routine.

John Rhys-Davies as Sallah and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones removing the lost Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost ArkAlso of note is Paul Freeman as Dr. René Belloq. Belloq is every bit the equal of Indiana Jones. Both men are at the top of their field. They are constant adversaries. They are both willing to get dirty and do whatever necessary to score the prize. As soon as one of them gets the upper hand, the other strikes back like that itchy thorn in your side that you just can't scratch. The film is great fun as these two one-up each other over everything from icons, to arks, to Marion Ravenwood.

Musical composer John Williams adds another feather to his much laden cap with the score to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Williams uses a march theme when Indiana Jones leaps into action. He also invokes mystical and religous themes whenever the Ark of the Covenant is mentioned are even shown, especially when Indiana Jones and Sallah are removing the Ark. Williams plays heavy on the mystical elements of the Ark while Spielberg barely shows the relic on the screen. Williams themes perfectly mesh with the pictures Spielberg displays onscreen.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great action film. This is an instant classic that can be viewed over and over again. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have hit the mother lode with this film. This is no doubt only the first chapter in the adventures of Indiana Jones. Move over James Bond, you have company.